What’s the World’s Worst Question to Ask In Bible Study?

Something about this image strangely warms the heart of those of us involved in leading, attending, or even supplying curricula for bible study:

With bibles open, group members sit in circles & not rows, and share their lives together through encounters with Scripture.

Yet there is one question that can ruin even the spiritual serenity of that scene:

What does this verse mean to you?

Why am I being so mean as to call such a frequently asked & thoroughly comforting query the world’s worst #BibleStudy question?

Because it does not matter one bit what a verse means to you.  That question is merely license to take a section of Scripture in a far different direction than the inspired author intended.

No, it matters a great deal what the original author meant.  To whom was he writing (hint: not TO you), what was the occasion, and how does this one verse fit in with overall narrative of the book?

And: what would those words likely have meant to the original, intended audience?

If digging into those questions sounds tedious, it’s not.  It’s fascinating, energizing, and thrilling. It’s like I tell my preaching colleagues:  you have to be interestED in the bible’s world if you hope to be interestING when you talk about it in your sermons.

So after doing that necessary spade work — sometimes by yourself, but more often in a community like the one pictured above — you can finally get to the question that really matters:

Now that I know what the author meant, how does that meaning intersect with my life today?

You’ve gone from the worst question in the world to the best question in the church.